Conference Realignment Chronicles :: We All Got Played

First of all Rat, you never let on how much you like a girl. "Oh, Debbie. Hi." Two, you always call the shots. "Kiss me. You won't regret it." Now three, act like wherever you are, that's the place to be. "Isn't this great?" Four, when ordering food, you find out what she wants, then order for the both of you. It's a classy move. "Now, the lady will have the linguini and white clam sauce, and a Coke with no ice." And five, now this is the most important, Rat. When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.

-- Fast Times at Ridgemont High -- Damone's Five Point Plan

Expect a rambling mess this morning.  Links will be towards the end of today's CRC.  I'm upset at yesterday's events.  Not because Texas Tech didn't take a stand, because Texas Tech had no other option or invite to an acceptable conference, but because I was played like everyone else.  Let me explain.

Who's the Winner? University of Texas:  Sitting back and taking all of this in at the end of the day yesterday, I laughed.  I laughed because we all bought into the news, the tweets, the releases and the political wranglings of the University of Texas.  This was so perfectly orchestrated, it's not even funny.  Perhaps I need to take off my tinfoil hat, but this all makes sense in retrospect. 

Step 1 :: Determine the Ultimate Goal : This was pretty easy for UT.  Just by looking at the deal signed, there is absolutely no doubt that UT only cares about UT.  They do not care about the conference, they don't care about the health of any other university, and they don't care about who gets pushed down as a result.  I've always maintained that this UT's prerogative and I still believe that.  UT wanted their own network.  The idea is that if they had their own network then they controlled their own destiny.

Step 2 :: Negotiate From a Position of Power : This was pretty easy too.  Everyone seems to complain about other universities having conversations with various conferences, but I'm almost positive that UT talked with every possible dance-partner that they could.  The Pac-10, the SEC and the Big Ten.  They had suitors in every conference and when they were sufficiently wanted by every conference, and make no mistake, they were, it was time to find someone to spread their story.

Step 3 ::  Find a Willing Puppet :  This was the easy part and I can't figure out if Orangeblood.com's Chip Brown (herein "Puppet") was a willing puppet or if it was consensual, but in either event Puppet was the perfect person to carry out UT's plan.  The administration needed a voice, and the voice needed to be essentially and unequivocally tied to the university.  Puppet's success largely depends on the success of UT and UT needed to have the information presented in a manner that wouldn't be compromised.  If forced to make a bet, I'd guess that Puppet was more than a willing puppet and I'm also guessing that he's laughing at all of us right now.  Maybe not laughing as hard as the UT administration, but I think he's having a pretty good time with all of this.

Step 4 :: Leverage the Other Members of the Big 12 :  Texas probably knew that only Nebraska and Colorado really had another place to go, and possibly Missouri.  Every other university was essentially contingent upon the decision that UT made.  I do think that the Aggies had options with the SEC, but I don't think the Aggies wanted to be the university that broke up the gang.  In any event, UT now needed to make sure that every university was leveraged and dependent on UT's decision.  This was done fairly easily.  Once the story broke, from none other than Puppet, that UT would be headed to the Pac-10 and would be taking with them, Texas Tech, Texas A&M (if they wanted to go), Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State (herein the "Hangers-On"), then the remaining Big 12 schools were effectively leveraged.  With the Big Ten publicly coming out and saying that they were done poaching the Big 12 UT had leveraged Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Missouri (herein the "Leftovers").  The Leftovers were now just as dependent upon UT's decision as the Hangers-On except that UT probably knew that the Leftovers would sell their soul in order to keep some semblance to the Big 12 intact.

Step 5 :: Negotiate Like You Mean It : This was key, and could potentially lead to Texas' downfall, but UT had to earnestly negotiate with the Pac-10, so much so that the Pac-10 needed to earnestly believe that the Longhorns were committed to their conference.  The Puppet tweeted this on Friday, June 11th @ 1:50 P.M.:

Texas will announce its plans to join the Pac-10 after its regents meet next Tuesday, source confirm to Orangebloods.com.

Then it seems as if the news that broke over the weekend was that at the 11th hour UT had a change of heart.  The Puppet tweeted this on Monday, June 14th @ 8:35 A.M.:

Orangebloods.com: According to sources, Texas will announce as early as today that UT will commit to a 10-member Big 12.

UT came back to the Leftovers and the Hangers-On, the hold up apparently being that UT wanted their own television network with the Pac-10.  I'm pretty sure that the Pac-10 was smart enough to know that giving Texas their own network would simply create a monster they wouldn't be able to control in a few short years and wasn't good for the betterment of the conference.  UT knew that they had more than willing partners with the Leftovers and the Hangers-On had no choice but to follow UT.  Once the Leftovers learned, through the Puppet I'm sure, that the Longhorns wanted to keep the conference alive they all jumped.  And they apparently jumped to the point that the Leftovers will willing to give up just about everything in order to be a part of the Big 12.  News broke yesterday that the Nebraska and Colorado buyouts would be only going to UT, OU and TAMU, but UT has now backed off of those comments.  Despite what might actually happen, UT had leveraged the Leftovers to the point that they'd do whatever it took to keep their status. 

Done.

Cost-Benefit:  I guess I learned this while in law school, but the one thing that I take with me when talking with clients on decisions that they need to make, that most decisions in life come down to a cost-benefit analysis.  I'm sure that DeLoss Dodds had more than a handful of these while making decisions for Texas.  As UT leveraged every remaining member of the Big 12, played the Pac-10 like a fiddle and still came away with the biggest piece of the pie they had to consider who they were affecting and those consequences.  The easy benefit of all of this is that UT would get everything they wanted and more, but there would be costs.  At this point I think that the Pac-10 is effectively done negotiating with Texas and may have burned this bridge for quite some time.  Texas is the really hot girl that can typically get away with flirting and teasing every guy, but at some point, the flirting and teasing get to be too much.  The Pac-10 and Commissioner Larry Scott have pride and the Longhorns effectively used their position of power to get what they wanted and the Pac-10 was merely a pawn to get to the ultimate goal.  The Longhorns may be the university that can get away with treating just about everyone like they're step-children, second-class citizens and / or trash, but every conference commissioner has witnessed the way that the Longhorns have treated their conference members and various conference commissioners.  Those that are in power see through what the Longhorns did and not every university is relegated to being a Leftover or a Hanger-On.

Not Happy:  The Texas Tech administration is clearly not happy with the turn of events, but as mentioned at the beginning, Texas Tech didn't have any singular options.  LAJ's Matthew McGowan had this from yesterday's press conference from Chancellor Kent Hance:

"We don't necessarily always agree with everything that goes on, but we're part of the family, and we'll discuss any disagreements at the next meeting," he said. "That's the way it happens. I will assure you that when I meet with the family, I always tell them how I feel."

I would bet that the entire Texas Tech administration, as well as the administrations for all of the Hangers-On, firmly believed that they were all headed to the Pac-10.  This is the only quote that I really need to read, despite pledging their allegiance to the Big 12, Hance made it clear that the way that UT is treating everyone in the conference isn't the way that you run a conference.  No other conference has the inequity that the Big 12 currently has.  And of course, just by virtue of the payouts the Big 12 will provide UT, OU and TAMU with sufficient funds that will allow the those three to afford the buyout, while the other remaining schools won't have the funds to do so. The current television deal keeps in place the current caste system.

The Mythical Television Deal:  Sports Business Daily's John Ourand seems to be the only person with some sort of verification of the television deal that isn't:

But sources say FSN has told Big 12 officials that it would increase its annual payout to as much as $130-$140M per year. It currently pays $19.5M per year for the cable TV rights, a deal that ends following the '11-12 season. As part of its proposed deal, FSN has asked to take control of the conference's third-tier rights that are currently controlled by rights holders IMG, ISP and Learfield, sources said. These rights include radio, local media, third-tier TV rights, corporate sponsorships, and in-stadium and arena signage. It is not known when these rights will be available. Another important component to the Big 12's decision involves ESPN. Big 12 schools were concerned that ESPN would demand a lower license fee, since the conference lost two of its marquee schools -- Colorado and Nebraska. The Big 12 approached ESPN and received assurances that the network would not seek a rebate from its current $60M per year deal that runs through '15-16.

The $20 Million Penalty:  News broke yesterday morning that the $20 million penalty to be paid by Nebraska and Colorado were going to go directly to UT, OU and TAMU.  UT's Dodds denied this proposition:

"We do not have any guarantees from the league or our northern partners. There have been reports that there's going to be a special deal for some of us using penalty money or other money," [Texas president Bill] Powers said. "We were not part of that. We have heard about that. … It was not part of our consideration and we oppose that kind of deal."

Conclusion:  There's a few things that I've learned through the entire process.  1)  Don't believe a thing coming from the athletic department offices in Austin.  2) I will never believe anything from the Puppet, who I think has effectively ruined his reputation.  He can certainly claim that he was reporting only what his sources told him, but he knew.  He had to have known the consequences that he was reporting, and although he initially looked like the guy that had all of the inside sources, which he did, he was being used.  3) We're all puppets to an extent.  We all fell for this and as I thought about what I would write this morning, I couldn't help but think that we were all part of an incredibly frustrating process and we were all being played. 

Thoughts, comments and telling me that I'm crazy for thinking that this was all part of some master scheme that was so carefully orchestrated are appreciated.

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